Back from Tanzania

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Mar 30th, 2005, 08:20 AM
  #1
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Back from Tanzania

We got back from Tanzania a week ago and are finally over the tremendous jet lag we suffer from trips through so many time zones. I've been working on the photo album for a lot of this time and since we took so many more pictures than ever before, I've crashed our poor old computer many times with the burden. I hope soon to get it finished.
Wow! Tanzania is so changed from ten and twenty years ago. It just knocked our socks off. This is the most beautiful, diverse country we have ever visited. I say that with Botswana fully in my mind. Tanzania tops everything I have ever seen in Africa!! I am so bowled over by the incredible things we saw that the trip report just hasn't solidified in my mind yet. I kept a pretty detailed journal and I shudder everytime I think of trying to write it up. A few more days should settle things in my mind and let me at least give a brief outline of what we did and saw.
We saw one quite shocking thing the government has done that will have a long range adverse impact on the animals. It is such a shocking contrast that I'm having trouble understanding why it was done. Money I guess.
Since so many from here have made trips to Tanzania recently I don't feel time is pushing me to complete the report right now, but if anyone has questions I would be happy to answer them.
Just so you know, we saw the migration in all its splendor. We saw the whole kit and kaboodle. We stayed at the most gorgeous camps I've ever visited and were thoroughly pampered and taken care of. Other than Kikoti, the camps were all luxury. Well I guess I can't say that about Ndutu, but other than above standard accommodations, everything was truly outstanding. Some of the best food, coffee, and lodge facilities in such a wonderful spot for the migration.
Hope all is well with you all. Liz
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Mar 30th, 2005, 08:45 AM
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Glad you're back safe and sound. I'd love to hear more details when you have a chance....
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Mar 30th, 2005, 09:08 AM
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Welcome back, Liz! Can't wait for your report and pics
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Mar 30th, 2005, 09:18 AM
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I knew you had to be back and I've been wondering how you were doing. It's good to hear from you, Liz. Can't wait to see your pictures and hear about your trip!
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Mar 30th, 2005, 09:46 AM
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Welcome home, Liz.

Like the others, I am looking most forward to a trip report. Please be careful, though...you may just convert a diehard Southern Africaphile into a diehard Eastern Africaphile. Or worse yet, I would suffer from both afflications which would surely lead to some sort of self-implosion!
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Mar 30th, 2005, 11:19 AM
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You have our interest! Looking forward to more.
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Mar 30th, 2005, 11:55 AM
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Since we are planning on staying at Kikoti for two nights, I'd be interested in hearing your recent impression of the camp. Thank you!
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Mar 30th, 2005, 12:39 PM
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Liz I'm soooo delighted the trip went so extraordinarily wonderfully! I shall probably miss you posting your trip report if it's in the next couple of weeks but shall certainly look forward to savouring it (and any photos you are willing to share) when I get back from Galapagos/ Peru!
Good to have you back!
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Mar 30th, 2005, 01:29 PM
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Welcome home Liz. I was wondering where you were... and now we know, you've put the 'puter into overload. Am looking forward to your report when you've got it together in your mind.
 
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Mar 30th, 2005, 01:59 PM
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Thanks everyone for your very kind comments.
Rocco-
You really should look into Tanzania. I haven't even been to the Southern area, but the Northern is just really spectacular!!
CarrieS.-
I'd skip Kikoti. Either Tarangire Treetops if you want to see jumping Bush Babies all over the place, or Tarangire River Lodge for the prettiest setting on a bank above the river. Both are much more convenient. It's a long haul across the Park and nothing over there. It really is too far to game drive clear across the park. I took a tour on my own of the facilities and just cannot recommend it. I talked to some folks who stayed at the Kibo property, River Lodge, which has been open about 5 years and they just loved it. They saw Leopards, lions and lots and lots of stuff. We saw some real big Boabab trees and some elephants. The Wildebeests and zebras which are there most of the year had migrated out of the Park to the Steppe area quite a distance away during this period. It just wasn't a favorite camp, sorry nothing good to say about it since every other place was just so super. Liz
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Mar 30th, 2005, 02:12 PM
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Kavey-
How wonderful! You must be very excited. You should be. Have a wonderful trip and I know you will have a lot to tell when you return. This is really incredible. Liz
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Mar 30th, 2005, 02:41 PM
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Liz:

So glad that you are back home safe and sound.

Even more happy that you are once again happy and impressed with East Africa!

You reporting so far seems fantastic. Can't wait for the full report and photos!

Did you run into any of the rain they are having in Kanya?

Jan

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Mar 30th, 2005, 04:16 PM
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Hi Liz-- Welcome home!! I am planning a family trip next February and have 2 nights reserved at Tarangire Treetops. I know it is outside the park, but is it so far as to really limit game drives? Is it worth the $$$? Should we think about changing to the River Camp? Also, we have 4 nights in the Serengeti --right now we have 3 nights at Kusini and 1 at Serena, but some in the our group would like to do some camping in the Serengeti. We could change to 3 nights mobile camping at the Ndutu area then 1 at Serena or 2 night camping at Ndutu and 1 at Kusini and 1 at Serena . Would it be more convenient to divide the time between Ndutu area and Kusini? Is migration viewing or other game drives better from one or the other? Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks
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Mar 30th, 2005, 05:55 PM
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Jan- Thanks for the nice comments. Yes it rained but about three nights we had just stepped in the door from dinner and the sky opened up and it just poured. Both nights at Ngorongoro FarmHouse it rained and we had a fire in the fireplace and never got wet. It never rained when we were out. Just worked out beautifully.
The rains were really off this year and over 2/3rds of the wildebeest calves have died due to the moving of the herds. Probably all of them will die before they leave the southern area. Their bones haven't had a chance to form because they have been forced to be on the move continually. Many of them never bonded with their mothers and would just follow anything around. It was just so very tragic. Those who saw it were heartbroken. It happened before we got there. In our pictures you will see very few mothers with their babies.
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Mar 30th, 2005, 06:29 PM
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Billmarie-
Tough questions and no one could answer them with any certainty. The rains are so very, very unpredictable that you cannot even guess where the animals will be at any time. We had booked Kusini for three nights because we couldn't get into Ndutu until after that. I knew it would be okay because I had read how lovely Kusini was whether or not the migration was there. I was determined to drive to where ever they were since we had our own car and driver. Well, when we left Ngorongoro heading for Kusini, we were booked to have lunch at Ndutu Safri Lodge because I had wanted to go there for the last three years. As we left I saw some Wildebeests running into Ndutu and I shouted at them to get up to Kusini. They turned around and started running away from Ndutu. Isn't that a scream? It was only probably 100 or so of them and our driver started laughing because they turned and started running in the direction we would be heading. Well when we got to Kusini, there they were. We had three full days of millions of Wilebeests all over the place. What luck, huh? When we ended up at Ndutu later in the trip, not a Wildebeest in sight. They had left right after giving birth. It was crazy.
I wouldn't even venture a guess as to where you should book. Supposedly Ndutu in February is where they are 9/10ths of the time, but after what I saw I would never again want to try to figure it out. We had waited until January to make our plans for a variety of reasons, but one is I wanted to know how the rains were for this year. Everything was reported to be normal but when we got there that isn't what we found. I don't honestly know how you can possibly guess with any certainty. You just pay your money and take your chances as they say.
As for the Serena, that would be my last choice and that is because in the Central area you cannot drive off road and there is very little on the roads. It is so much more crowded and staying on the roads really is an inconvenience. In Ndutu and Kusini both during the migration they allow off road driving because it isn't as crowded and we were spoiled by it. You just drove to whereever the action was. How wonderful! I wouldn't want to stay at the larger hotels in the central area and we were lucky we could get into the smaller camps throughout. I'll tell you the truth, if I could live anyplace in Africa, I would choose Kusini Tented Camp. That place is heaven. It is so incredible. I think you will see by my pictures as we took lots there. Ndutu is lovely too, but it is not anywhere near the nicety of Kusini. But when the animals are there then who cares where you stay? Except the Central area. Too crowded and staying on the roads is just awful.
I think those that do the mobile camping really love it. We just don't like to, but we are older and I have arthritis and a bad back. The mobile camps in Ndutu and in the Serengeti area are very popular and book up fast. I've never heard anyone complain about them at all. Just not my cup o' tea.
The big question is...........
Where will the animals be? I don't have a clue. When we came through the central area we ran upon the zebra herds as they stay in that area and usually do not accompany the Wildebeest to the NCA. We must have seen 30,000 or more this one day we came through there heading for Kirawira. We came back to the exact area the next day at the same time on our way to Ndutu and guess what? Not an animal in sight. Not one zebra anywhere. In just a few hours they left and we never saw them again. I heard they probably went to Kusini but we took the road to Ndutu and didn't pass through there. They didn't come to Ndutu while we were there.
As for Tarangire. We didn't enjoy that at all. We were there two nights and why I don't know. When we left we went to Ngorongoro Farm House and met a group with Overseas Adventure. I went over to talk to them and they had been at Tarangire and were raving about all the stuff they saw. What????????? Yes, they stayed on the entrance side of the park and saw leopards, lions, bush babies. I heard the Tree Tops has bush babies that jump through the trees all night long. I didn't pass by it so I don't know but I didn't hear anything against it. The group I mentioned had stayed at the Tarangire River Lodge and just loved it. Its a Kibo property as is Ngorongoro Farm House and they were with Kibo having been booked by Overseas Adventure Travel. We saw a few of their groups and I sure have a different opinion of them. Really nice people and not backpackers at all. Very well dressed and older mixed with 30ish singles. The main thing at this time of the year, don't book clear across the park as we did. Personally I would skip Tarangire for these months, but that is just my taste. We went out both days in the morning and zip----- nada, nothing. I was just chomping at the bit to get to the Serengeti because I had heard about the action going on and here we sat cooling our heels in Tarangire. Very frustrating. Hope this helps. Liz
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Mar 31st, 2005, 04:37 AM
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Dear Liz

What a GREAT description of the safari experience in Jan-Mar! I wish everyone who plans a safari to see the migration in the Serengeti can read your short note. It is spot on!

Just a few comments.

We've been saying all along that Tarangire is hit & mis in Jan - June. Acually it gets worse towards June as the grass grows taller thanks to the rains. During this time, your game viewing experience is a factor of 3 things:

1. The knowledge of your driver/guide to find the resident wildlife. Experience with Tarangire is crucial when the migratory animals are not in the park and game drives can easily turn into a boring affair.
2. Luck
3. Your interests. It is a beautiful park when green but not if you want to see heaps of wildlife.

This migration season was crazy right from the start! From large groups that came down the western side of the Serengeti, to the groups that disappeared into the Maswa Reserve.

It just goes to show that a lodge or permanent tented camp safari is not that easy to plan! It's a catch 22. To get into the few available lodges/camps, you have to book a year ahead. To be at the right place at the right time, you have to be flexible! So what do you do? I would always opt for a combination of permanent and seasonal camps with a fly-camp or two inbetween.

But one has to know where the seasonal camps are and how to contact them. I will post this information here after my trip in June.

Lastly, the Tarangire River Camp (not Lodge) and the Ngorongoro Farm House can be booked through Tanganyika Wilderness Camps, LTD. As far as I know these are not Kibo Safari properties.
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Mar 31st, 2005, 05:13 AM
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Climbhigh, etc.
What was your point?
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Mar 31st, 2005, 06:08 AM
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My point is:

A] Very happy you enjoyed Tanzania so much - it is my favorite wildlife country.
B] It's Tarangire River Camp not Tarangire River Lodge. I wanted to make sure there is no confusion with Tarangire Safari Lodge.
C] Tarangire is not the best place to be from Jan-Jun
D] I completely agree with your statement about not guessing the best place to be. Game viewing (especially the migration between Dec-June) is always unpredictable and the fact that there are only 2 places to stay in the Southern Serengeti makes matters worse. You simply cannot wait and see and then book your lodge/camp at the last minute as everything will be full.

Some folks booked Ndutu a year ahead and saw no migration this year despite advice from myself and others that it is the best place to be in Jan-March!

If they came 2 weeks earlier they would've been in the middle of it.

E] There are ways to increase your chances to see the migration during Dec-Jun. But only if you know about the seasonal camps from different outfitters at Moru, Nungunungu and other places, as well as the fly-camps that can be set up at the last minute by the operators of these seasonal camps. Information about these luxury camps are not readily available.

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Mar 31st, 2005, 08:31 AM
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Actually the place we saw that started all of this, was not Tarangire River Camp, it was Tarangire Safari Lodge and it is located just inside the Park. Our driver called it Tarangire River Lodge because of its location on a bluff overlooking the river.
The folks we ran into who were there with Kibo Safaris did stay at the River Camp and liked it very much. When I described the Safari Lodge to them, they said it was the River Camp. That camp is located just outside the Park, but very close, so you can do night game drives. I can only recommend a different camp/lodge in Tarangire due to its location, not having visited it. I would recommend staying on the entrance side of the Park as I said earlier due to the other side of the Park, while still pretty, lacks the game, at least during this time of the year anyway.
When I said a property was a Kibo property, I am not implying ownership. It is common there, so we found, to refer to the camps as a certain groups property if their affiliations are with them, i.e., they book these camps based on their affiliation with the owners, not necessarily the best place for their guests, although it could be. This is the case with Kikoti and Roy Safaris. I understand that they have an affiliation with the owners of Kikoti and they book there. I didn't think it was the best choice after we got there. I didn't know to ask for a different camp because we didn't really want to go to Tarangire. We went along with it because of the way it was included in our trip. I decided to book with them based on recommendations I had read here. Would I do it again? Probably not. Every other camp we stayed at was by my request, not their suggestion, and we loved them. I based those decisions on other research and recommendations.
I really encourage anyone to name all of the camps you desire to stay at. Don't leave it up to who is doing the actual booking. I learned that the hard way.
Otherwise thanks for your comments, Climbshighetc. Liz

P.S. I am going into all of this detail to empower other readers to know that they, and they alone, control their safari. You can and should familiarize yourself with where you want to stay and not leave it to others to make that decision for you. After all that is why you are booking with a local operator. Otherwise just visit a U.S. agent and leave it up to them and take what they give you.
If you've been to Africa before you more than likely have strong preferences and then you take matters into your own hands. You don't have to accept what is offered first off. Change to a different place and if they say you cannot, contact another group and ask them, don't just accept it.
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Mar 31st, 2005, 09:18 AM
  #20
 
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Liz, you are absolutely correct.

For the benefit of those wanting to explore the 2 places you mentioned:

http://www.tarangiresafarilodge.com/
Inside the park near the entrance on top of the hill. Popular with outfitters and very affordable (and busy). But the views are great. They have tents and bungalows and elephants often walk right past the tents! But from Jul-Aug the areas around this lodge are quite crowded with daytrippers (including school buses).

http://www.africawilderness.com/river/index_river.html

Just outside the park. Good value for money but getting popular. One of my favourites too, together with Treetops, Swala and Oliver's.

You got me thinking about Kikoti and while it works better from Jul-Oct, I must agree there is not much to see from inside the camp or nearby - considering the drive. At night, you may see some wildlife but the nightdrives can be crowded when the camp is full. A fine camp, but without a "wow" factor when compared with Treetops for example.

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